Are Air Conditioners And Air Coolers Safe For Babies?
Have you ever contemplated the effect of air conditioners and coolers on your little one? Read on to know if it is safe or not for your baby!
By Sahana Charan
As the scorching sun beats down on us during the summer months, there is rarely any respite from the heat and humidity. In most cases, people install cooling systems in their homes to beat the heat and stay comfortable.
But what about small children? They too feel the heat and need to cool off. But, most parents mull over the safety of air conditioners (ACs)/air coolers. They worry that constant exposure to cool air may have adverse effects on the health of their little ones. This is especially true of parents of newborns and infants.
What is the right body temperature for a baby?
According to guidelines issued under the maternal and child health programme of the World Health Organization: “Thermal control comprises the implementation of the procedures needed to achieve and maintain a normal body temperature for the newborn, whether the need is to keep infants warm, or to cool them down if the body temperature exceeds 37.5°C (99.5°F). Thermal or heat control considerations are high priority when planning for the care of the newborn. This is true for full-term infants but is of critical importance for preterm and low birth weight infants, because of the increased risk of illness and death — proper measurement of body temperature is important in the assessing an infant's heat balance."
"Newborns with a low birth weight are at risk of hypothermia (a drop in body temperature to dangerous levels), which in turn can cause blood sugar levels to drop and affect metabolic activity. Therefore, parents must take extra care to see that such babies do not become too cold. A baby weighing less than 2.5 kg should be wrapped well, with the head, hands and feet kept warm all through the day,” says Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant, Paediatrics and Neonatology, Motherhood Hospitals, Bengaluru.
On the other hand, excessive sweating can cause dehydration in babies, so an air-conditioned room can help in keeping the little one cosy and relaxed. “Dress your baby in light and airy clothes in the daytime, while at night, the head and limbs should be covered with a wrap preventing direct contact with the cold air. It is a good idea to check your baby’s temperature from time to time by touching her forehead, hands and feet. Keeping a low-reading thermometer handy will help. Anything below 34 degrees Celsius needs immediate attention,” adds Dr Santosh.
A low-reading thermometer should be used for all measurements. An ordinary thermometer only reads down to 35°C/95°F and will not detect significant hypothermia, low-reading infant thermometers go down to 25°C/77°F.
Santosh also recommends that parents (either the mother or father) give Kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) to a newborn from time-to-time as this will help her keep warm even in a cooled room, especially at night time.
What is the right room temperature for a baby?
In tropical climate, overheating and sweating during the summer months can cause dehydration in babies. While it is necessary to keep infants warm so that their body temperature stays normal, it is also imperative to keep them cool and comfortable in summer so they do not lose water content from their body. Medical experts say that having an AC or air cooler in a baby’s room is absolutely fine, as long as parents take necessary precautions.
“There is no harm in using an air conditioner or air cooler for your baby in hot climatic conditions but parents need to keep safety measures in mind. Ideally, the room temperature should be maintained at a steady 24 –26 degrees Celsius." says Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant, Paediatrics and Neonatology, Motherhood Hospitals, Bengaluru.
Things parents need to do
- Ensure that the room has good air circulation and is not too hot or too cold, as this can be dangerous. When the room is air-conditioned, maintain a steady temperature of 24–26 degrees Celsius as this will keep your baby comfortable.
- Dress your baby in light and airy clothes during the day. At night when your baby is sleeping, keep his head, hands and feet covered with appropriate garments and cover the body with a soft wrap.
- Check your baby’s body temperature once in a while by touching his forehead, hands and heat. If you feel your baby may be cold, use a thermometer to measure the temperature.
- Hold your little one close to your chest once in a while to transfer the warmth of your body to him. If you find that your baby is unusually lethargic or having difficulty in breathing, ensure she gets immediate medical attention.
- Service your air-conditioner or cooler occasionally, so that it functions properly and does not give out unhealthy air that might affect your baby.
Precautions and safety measures parents must take
- Do not keep your baby’s crib or cot right in front of the air-cooler or close to the air-conditioner. It is advisable to place your baby in a part of the room, where she is away from the direct blast of the cooler.
- Do not expose your baby to sudden changes in temperature, i.e., from a cold room to the hot outdoors and vice versa. Increase the temperature gradually, so the change is not sudden.
- Do not let the cool air make your baby’s skin dry. Moisturise your baby’s skin with baby lotion and keep her hydrated with regular feeds and water.
- Do not allow the cold air from the cooler blow directly near your child’s nose, as this can cause difficulty in breathing and dry out nasal passages.
- Do not set the temperature too low in your baby’s room. Low birth weight babies and newborns are at risk of hypothermia in cold surroundings. Change nappies regularly to ensure your baby is dry.
Using an air cooler or air-conditioning system in the hot and humid months will keep babies safe from the heat and help them sleep well during the night. Parents should, however, exercise care and caution to ensure that it does not cause discomfort to the little ones or bring them any harm.
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